I don't normally post a whole article but this piece deserves to have every word passed on to every blog across the blogosphere. Written by a Marine in Iraq it details the difficulties they face everyday trying to identify who the real enemy is:
I don’t know what happened in Haditha. I wasn’t there, and my knowledge is limited to the news articles I have read. However, the Marine Corps prides itself on holding its members to the highest standards of accountability. If the allegations are substantiated, I am sure the Marine Corps will pursue appropriate legal and administrative action against those responsible. While I cannot speak intelligently on the Haditha incident, I do think I can comment on possible causes of these types of tragic events: a frustration most can’t understand. I don’t condone any use of force outside our directed rules of engagement and escalation of force procedures. However, I can understand why violations of the ROE happen, however unjustified they may be.
Examine the following hypothetical example: During a vehicular patrol, you drive though a small neighborhood of four houses around 0800. Everything is kosher. Women are making breakfast, children are playing, and men are talking to each other near the road. You drive through the same area two hours later at 1000 and things are vastly different. Nobody is outside. As the second vehicle in the patrol rounds a corner just past the four houses it is hit by an IED. The magnitude of the casualties can be left to the individual imagination. Whether it killed everyone inside the vehicle or just peppered the doors with dirt, the intent was the same. Someone wanted to kill you. Someone looked at your truck and said to themselves “Those men should die, and I’m going to make it happen,” It—pisses—you—off.
What changed? For whatever reason either that IED wasn’t present on your first trip through or it wasn’t detonated. Whether it happened between 0800 and 1000 or late one night last week, you can’t dig a hole in front of someone’s house and plant an IED without them noticing at some point during their daily routine. The people around know something, and it’s evidenced by the fact they were conveniently inside to avoid the explosion. However, they didn’t outwardly aggress on you, and you don’t have a clear target, so you can’t retaliate. Repeat this sequence of events a few times over the course of 6-7 months of combat. Perhaps you bury a few friends as a result. The same scene manifests itself in a myriad of locations and situations. Your friends keep dying, and you have never so much as seen the face of your enemy.
This is the unfortunate reality that Marines on the ground live with everyday—a population of Iraqis sometimes either indifferent to the attacks or scared into passive approval by insurgents that might easily turn their aggression on the Iraqi citizens if they assist us. I think in many places the insurgency isn’t rooted in anti-American feelings, but in a desperate attempt to retain power that is threatened by a democratically elected government. This isn’t the case everywhere, but in some places, it is the naked truth.
When does passive approval become active aggression? If someone knows about an IED and they aren’t outside trying to flag us down before we hit it, how responsible are they for its results? What are they guilty of if they know who murdered our comrades and don’t tell us when directly questioned? How do you discern the true insurgent sympathizers from the poor farmer that fears for his life if he helps us? Does that poor farmer’s fear excuse his inaction? All these questions lack definite answers. The one question that does have a definite answer is “When should I engage someone?” Our ROE are disseminated to every Marine and involve positive identification of someone as a threat before we can levy kinetic fires against them.
Regardless of what happened at Haditha, I think we should recognize the Marines who make these decisions every day, most notably the infantry. Nineteen-year-old men fresh out of high school are put into impossible situations, and somehow they almost invariably do the right thing. Unfortunately, it’s those rare instances of a broken moral compass that make the news. The life and death games that young men in our fighting forces play all over the world make the responsibilities of corporate CEOs pale in comparison.
I feel fortunate just to have served alongside men such as these. Some have deployed four and five times since 9/11 in support of the global war on terror, and to have witnessed and partaken in the critical decision making processes they encounter far more often than I. Few people recognize their plight and even fewer know their burden.
I see this on a much smaller scale in Law Enforcement, especially in low income "ghetto" areas. It becomes the Us vs. Them mentality that we must fight every day. After dealing with criminals day in and day out you ALMOST become accustomed to looking at everyone as a badguy. You see how family and friends lie, cheat and steal to help their buddy/family get away with the crime. You see how the domestic violence victim will get up on the stand and tell the jury your a liar just so hubby can get off to do it again. You see how the courts let those who you put away, for crimes too despicable to write about, in less time then it takes you to write the report.
And you start to get that mentality. It's something you have to fight everyday.
What these kids are fighting is 1000 times more difficult but these are the crème de la crème of our society and I have faith that they will conduct themselves as they should.